Rain Showers and Happy Hours
Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
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Where I stayed
It seems that the hotel had double booked and just tried their luck at giving us an $8 room for the $30 we had paid, this was not going to cut it. Fortunately Agoda offer a full refund if the room you have booked is unavailable, what they don't offer is an easy way to contact them if you don’t have a phone that allows international calls
The Magic Sponge certainly was a little bit magic. We were meant to stay in Kampot for just 3 days but as with everyone we spoke to we extended our stay and eventually managed to drag ourselves away a week later. The magic sponge was just a perfect little retreat from the rain and the start of the monsoon season. With rooms at just $10 a night, it had good food, good movies, mini golf, the cheapest happy hour beer I have ever know, the nicest staff and even a great selection of guests
Kampot is a funny little town, it really is tiny and there is not a lot here, but it has become the expat central of Cambodia. The best thing about this is that all the expats have set up restaurants and for us Kampot became the culinary centre of Cambodia. From perfect German Wurst to Pizza freshly made by the most Italian man I have ever met outside of Italy to the infamous Ribs at the Rusty keyhole, the food in Kampot was amazing. Jacket potatoes with proper cheddar cheese, beans on toast and even vinegar for chips, Kampot was my food heaven, it is surprising we left at all.
We took a chance that the rain my stop for us if we booked a tour and amazingly we got lucky, we booked the one day Bokor Hill tour which took us up into Bokor National Park with its amazing views over Kampot. Bokor Hill is now the home to a ghost town from the French Colonial Times. In the 1920’s construction began for a town where French Colonial settlers could seek respite from the heat and humidity of the city. It was abandoned in the 1940’s and became a strong hold of the Khmer Rouge until the 1990’s. Now a huge brand new casino and hotel has opened up on Bokor Hill but the old colonial ghost town still seems to draw more tourists.
En-route up the Hill we stopped at a viewpoint to take some photos of Kampot and the salt plains below
Opposite the Kings Residence is a pagoda with a rather huge Buddha with a lot of people leaving offerings and praying, we had a very brief stop at the pagoda as the wind was picking up and we feared we may be blown back down the hill.
Back in the mini bus and onwards to our next stop with our green looking friend and the non stop American talker…
The remnants of the old French town are pretty cool, we stopped at the old church which again was covered in graffiti and had our lunch at the top of the hill with the most fantastic view over the jungle and town below
Whilst we all enjoyed our lunch our sick friend spent the time bent over double leaving yet more of his stomach lining on Bokor Hill, oh how I feel his pain. I think I would have just had to curl up and spend the night out in wild. As we were getting into the mini van, our American friend managed to ask the most inane question I have ever heard… after spending a good 20 minutes walking around the graffiti covered church, she asked our guide what the Khmer graffiti said. Just to make it even more annoying she pronounced Khmer, Ka-My meaning the poor guide had no idea what she was going on about. By now everyone was on their last nerve and she received an ear bashing from one of the sick Brits friends, that the graffiti probably said 'I was ere’. Sadly it had little effect and she carried on regardless.
The main attraction of the old Ghost town is the old Casino, which is now under a massive restoration project, but still looks pretty decrepit and most haunting especially when the fog appears from nowhere and the whole building practically vanishes. We went to the top of the building and had a view of…. Fog!
Our last stop of the day was to the waterfalls on Bokor Hill, unsurprisingly given the amount of rain that had fallen over the last fortnight the waterfall was cascading spectacularly and I did look at our guide like he had two heads when we showed me a crazy path on wet rocks on the edge of a 30 meter drop to walk along…
So Bokor Hill tour done it was time to head back to Kampot for the afternoon boat trip. But as much as we were all feeling the pain of the poor sick lad the American seemingly didn’t give a damn about getting him home and instead demanded that the driver pull over so she could buy some Durian. For anyone who doesn’t know Durian is a fruit from hell which is loved all over Asia and is banned on most forms of transport and in hotes due to the terrible smell which is just awful. It is like sweet sickly creamy smell that you can’t really describe. Needless to say, if you are in a minibus and have food poisoning this is not an odour that you want around you, yet we all had to point out to our friend that she should keep it wrapped until she got to her hotel out of respect to all of us!?
So we made it, we said our goodbyes and rearranged to meet whoever was up for the next part of the trip at the boat. Needless to say the boys didn’t make it, sadly the American did….
So the boat trip in itself was largely unexciting. It was a wooden boat with a very loud engine going down the Kampung Bye River, there were fishing boats and little riverside resorts but nothing much noteworthy, until we picked up two extra guests…
Having spent the whole day on the tour together we didn’t expect any additions to the group but welcomed the newcomers who seemed to have come more prepared than us with a water melon, mango, beer and water
We didn’t think much more about this trip until we were having dinner with some of our new friends and the toilet stop on the river came up in conversation, amazingly our friends had met Croatian Andy (as we liked to call him) and he had told them the same story…this gets better, they had the second part of the story about the refund. Croatian Andy went to see the guy who he had bought the tour from, who just happened to be a Vietnamese Midget, he told him that he wanted a refund and that he was going to put a bad review on Trip Advisor
So after our crazy boat ride we managed to sign ourselves up for a second one, the lovely Donna who we had met the night we arrived had friends visiting and planned another boat trip, this one was significantly better organised. For one we had beer and crisps and for two we had Bart the Rastafarian Belgian who has been boating the river for the last 7 years at the helm. There was one small problem, Donna had forgotten to tell us that we would be swimming in the river… after all the hours of watching River Monsters on Animal Planet this didn’t appeal at all but after a few beers and in the hot afternoon sun there was no stopping us, we stripped down to our undies and in we got. After our swim we were taken down some of the back streams and really did get to see some of the beauty of the river that is hidden from the usual tourists. Thanks for inviting us on your day trip Donna! We did have one amazing revelation on this boat tour, Donna actually offered us both jobs at the Java Bleu hotel, working reception/bar etc to bring a bit of life into the hotel. Sadly it didn’t work with our plans, but what a compliment
So after a few more days of relaxing and drinking beer, the weather eased and we planned another trip, this time to the infamous Salt plains and Pepper farms and to the seaside town of Kep. As usual we are out of season, so the salt plains are just sandy wet fields and the pepper was all been harvested save for a few bunches of pepper corns which have survived, but thankfully the salt that had been harvested was in the process of being bagged and transferred from the massive storage sheds so we got an inside tour, how these tiny little men were carrying 50kg bags on their shoulders was beyond me?! We had a brief stop in the Phnom Chhnork Cave but this was not really very exciting, the guide wanted us to scramble through some small hole to get through to another cave but I opted to walk back around and admire the bats on the ceiling instead.
So we set off to Kep, the seaside town near Kampot famed for its seafood, specifically Kep Crab. It was pretty cool from the restaurant to see the chef head out to the fridge to collect the crab that had been ordered. The ‘fridge’ being a pot in the sea. Kep was pretty but the sea was still super rough from the storm and I was not looking forward to the last stop of the trip a boat over to the beautiful Rabbit Island
So our time in Kampot was drawing to a close, we had had a fantastic break from the reality of travelling with a great little base to stay, amazing food and some great new friends thrown in as well. We played mini golf, and I took the crown as the master, we went to a pub quiz and considering the fact that the Egg heads would have struggled we held our own pretty well, well I say that, we didn’t come last and that’s what counts by my quiz standards!
Next stop Kratie for a final visit to the Mekong River and to see if we can find the dolphins.